Would You Eat Your Best Friend?

by | Apr 26, 2024 | Heartivist Of The Week

Every year, an estimated 30 million dogs are killed in Asia for human consumption, Humane Society International.

“If you really want to know what is happening to the animals in the animal farming industry, you will suffer a lot when you know the truth, and a lot of people may not want to choose to do that. People are too afraid to know the truth,” Monica Wang, animal advocate and Founder of Xiaobu Vegan.

The power of compassion is transformative and contagious, it can create a mindset change and have a ripple effect on someone’s life, community, and the entire world. It is precisely the power of compassion that made Monica Wang become a vegan and begin her journey of advocating for animal well being in her native China.

Monica has a bachelor’s degree in English and Literature from the Yantai University in China. She is a consultant for both international and Chinese alternative protein companies and the Founder of the Xiaobu Vegan organization.

Monica was born in Guangxi, a province situated in the south of China, a land of natural beauty surrounded by mountains and rivers. Back then, Monica remembers seeing cows, sheep, dogs, and cats as part of the quotidian landscape but she hadn’t developed a personal connection to animals. 

“When I was a child I didn’t have pets,” Monica recalls. “I grew up alone. My parents were working outside the province. But I did see a lot of animals like cows and sheep in the wild while I was growing up in my province. I lived in the countryside when I was a kid. There were also many dogs and cats wandering around the village but I didn’t have much connection to animals. Back then I didn’t feel the need to protect them because I didn’t have any knowledge about the animal farming industry.”

The Dog Meat Industry in Guangx

Every year, an estimated 30 million dogs are killed in Asia for human consumption, and at least 1 out of every 3 of them are killed in China (around 10 to 20 million), according to the Humane Society International

In fact, every year since 2010 the city of Yulin in the province of Guangxi has held the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, a 10-day event that begins during the summer solstice where thousands of dogs and cats are transported from all over China to be killed and eaten. 

A survey made by the Chinese polling company Suzhou Zhongyan Science and Technology Inc. published by the Humane Society International revealed that 73% of Yulin´s residents eat dog and cat meat occasionally and 24% do it at least once a week or once a month, only 18% of Yulin´s residents don’t consume dog or cat meat. Even though for the majority of people who eat dog or cat meat (67%) this is not a household food, they consume it outside their home, at places like restaurants. 

“Some of the dogs are born to be meat dogs, because people raise dogs for dog meat, just as some raise pigs or cows, which is a big resource for dog meat, others just grab street dogs or steal dogs from other people,” says Monica.

Organizations like the Humane Society International and Peta have been constantly advocating to stop the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival and trying to promote the end of dog meat trade across Asia because of its cruelty towards animals who are “even skinned alive before being turned into pieces of meat”, according to Peta.

Extending Compassion for Pets to All Animals

After Monica graduated from college, she relocated to Shanghai, and in 2019 she began working as a Business Development Manager at Plant Based Consulting – this would have a great impact on her life. 

“The concept of veganism itself is not really popular in China. Of course, I knew about eating vegan, but that was more about the Asian Buddhist culture. It was only after I started to work at Plant Based Consulting in Shanghai that I became vegan,” says Monica. “One day, I was writing an article about veganism and I wrote a sentence in Chinese that said: “It’s very cruel to eat animal meat, maybe we can have other choices.” At that moment, one of my work partners asked me: “Why did you write this? Obviously you don’t believe it”. I felt very bad and I told her: “No, I haven’t eaten any meat recently. I do believe this.” That’s when I decided to become first a vegetarian and then vegan.“

Around that time, Monica also adopted her 2 cats from a rescuer and later on Meng Meng would come into her life, a Japanese Akita who had previously been used to breed puppies for sale. 

“I remember taking my cats to get their vaccines at the vet and seeing many dogs in cages there, so I offered to take the dogs for walks as a volunteer, for free,” recalls Monica. “I would take 3 or 4 dogs out on walks at the same time. I remember seeing Meng Meng there in a cage, she was used to breed puppies to be sold by the vets. After some years, I got a message from the vet asking me if I was willing to adopt Meng Meng, I wasn´t told why but I think the vet was too packed or maybe she was getting older to continue breeding. Now she has been with me for 4 years and she is neutered.”

Monica´s closeness to her rescued friends, her 2 cats, and Meng Meng, allowed her to persevere in her vegan lifestyle and ultimately to try and advocate for all animals.

“When I was a little girl, I didn’t really know what being a vegan was or what veganism was. So I was unconscious about all these concepts until I started to work in Shanghai and I started to meet some people in the vegan community. I liked the idea of veganism and started to have my own pets. Right now, I feel that if I keep eating meat I will think about my own pets.”

Xiaobu Vegan Organization

After becoming vegan, Monica got to meet other vegan community members in Shanghai and that inspired her to create her own organization to promote this lifestyle in her native China.

“I wanted to let more Chinese people, especially young people, know about the concept of veganism so they can really try and adopt the lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be every day or right away, it can be step by step. I want to promote the idea and have more people try it and embrace it,” says Monica. 

In September of 2020, Monica established her own organization to promote a plant-based diet to protect animals.

“Our organization’s name is Xiaobu Vegan. Xiaobu which means step by step in Chinese. Because we want to encourage people to try veganism, to know about the concept, and to try the lifestyle step by step,” says Monica.

Promoting Veganism in China

Xiaobu Vegan has 3 main pillars which are: the creation of educational videos where people debate about veganism, reaching out to restaurants to become vegan-friendly by opening vegan menus, and promoting a “Vegan Challenge” where people commit to a plant-based diet for 7 days.

“We film a lot of different kinds of videos to do society education because in China a lot of people are not quite familiar with the concept of veganism, we need to make it popular and make people accept the idea. We organize debates of 2 teams: vegan team versus nonvegan team. All topics are related to animals, alternative proteins, and the environment. We have an audience, and we record the debates to make videos to share through China’s social media with topics like “Some animals are born to be food, agree or disagree,” says Monica. “We also work with a lot of restaurants in Shanghai to open the vegan menus, once they have opened the vegan menu we promote them as vegan-friendly restaurants to the vegan community. The “Vegan Challenge” is a very important activity to promote veganism. We encourage people to stick to a vegan diet for a period of 7 days and we share a vegan menu with them, and if they don’t have time to cook we let them know about vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly restaurants. Many meat eaters are happy to join the challenge.“

The first filming of our Xiaobu Vegan Debates generated immense interest, with over 100 sign-ups for participants eager to debate. The 20-minute debate was posted on multiple social platforms, including WeChat, YouTube, and Instagram, garnering 1.3 million views, 4,038 likes, and 2,678 shares on WeChat. 

The enormous success of the debates inspired Monica to create a special screening where 50 Chinese people, including community leaders and organizations, could attend and also eat vegan food to generate interest in promoting veganism.

“We want to have more people to sit with us and watch the debates, and to vote,” says Monica. “The idea is that they vote by raising their hands before the video and vote again after they see the video to see if they have changed their minds or not. We want to talk to people face to face and we will serve them different kinds of vegan meals and products so people try the vegan items and see that vegan products are as delicious as animal products or even better so in the future they have more options.” 

A Promising Future for Veganism

In order to organize the projection of the debates about veganism topics, Monica applied for funds from The Pollination Project that will allow them to pay for the screening venue as well as the food that will be given at the event. 

“I got to know about The Pollination Project during the AFAD conference in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia,” explains Monica. “When I came back to China I applied for the seed funds and I was very happy when I got the email where I was going to get the support from TPP. I feel very lucky to get the funds.”

Even though dog and cat meat consumption is still practiced in Asia and animal farm cruelty happens every day, for Monica the future of veganism seems promising as she hopes more people will be inspired to join the vegan community extending their compassion and respect to every sentient being.

“Even nowadays, when I go outside in my hometown I can see restaurants with banners that say “dog meat restaurants.” I think it’s getting a little bit better because people are having more and more conscience, especially about dog meat. Dogs are becoming our friends, right? Not the food we are supposed to eat. I was born and raised in that kind of culture and I think if someone like me can have a change of mindset and change my diet, my lifestyle, I think I can encourage and influence more people, especially young people in China, to try the new lifestyle,” says Monica. “More young people are finding different ways to promote animal care and that gives me hope. There are other people who have been doing this for a long time and they share their knowledge with us. I can feel that the future is promising.”

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